The Cleveland Cavaliers took a 2-0 series lead on the Toronto Raptors thanks to a milestone night from LeBron James.
USA TODAY Sports
CLEVELAND – James Jones has had a front-row seat for every LeBron James playoff game the past seven seasons – four with the Miami Heat and now three with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
He has witnessed 13 triple-doubles, 63 double-doubles, 53 games with 30 or more points, game-winning shots and championship plays.
And what is Jones seeing now through six games of Cleveland’s postseason run with James averaging 34.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.3 assists while shooting 56.6% from the field and 48.4% on three-pointers.
“He’s seeking mastery of the game on all levels,” Jones said to USA TODAY Sports following Cleveland’s 125-103 victory and another dominating performance for James against the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series.
James scored 39 points on 10-for-14 shooting from the field, including 4-for-6 on three-pointers, and 15-for-21 from the foul line.
Efficiency, thy name is LeBron James. When James is on the court, the Cavs have scored 118.9 points per 100 possessions, which would be the highest offensive rating of his playoff career if he continued at that pace for the remainder of the postseason.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” James said. “My teammates do a great job of putting me in position (and) my coaching staff does a great job of putting me in position to be successful. And, I put a lot of work in on my craft, and I live with the results. Just blessed I’m able to make a few plays tonight to help us win another game.”
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James has maintained he’s not a natural scorer and was quick to point out he scored 39 points on just 14 shots. “That wouldn’t be a natural scorer right there,” James said.
James put in the work – improved his shot and footwork and learned to operate in the low post, off the ball, including cutting to the basket when a teammate has the ball.
He’s been just a scorer. He appreciates too many other aspects of the game to let one area define him.
“I’m a guy who just tries to play the game the right way,” he said. “If I drive and another guy comes to me then I know the numbers game. We have a 4-on-3 advantage. If I drive and I get past my guy and no one comes, I can lay it up or dunk it or whatever I’ve been blessed with at that point. I’m playing a lot of games inside the game when I’m playing.
“But I believe my best attribute is how much I care about my teammates and how much I want to see those guys succeed and that comes from passing the ball.”
But among players still playing, he is the leading scorer and has scored at least 30 points in five of six playoff games. And before Wednesday, he had never had multiple 15-point quarters in a playoff game.
The truth is James is a scorer, and he even admitted, “I can put the ball in the hole a little bit.”
In his 205th playoff game, he passed Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for No. 2 on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list, and if the Cavs reach the Finals, James will likely pass Hall of Famer Michael Jordan for the top spot.
“It was always my dream as a kid to be a part of this league, and once I saw that gift, and once I had mentors around me that were going to allow my gift to flourish, I didn’t take it for granted,” James said. “I still don’t. Even at 32. …
“So you hear a name like Kareem, a guy who’s done so many great things, not only as an individual but as a teammate. Winning championships in the ‘80s and how many points he’s put up. He’s somebody you read about. I didn’t get an opportunity to actually watch him play growing up, but I just read about his accomplishments and things he was able to do, so, it’s pretty cool.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.